Thursday, April 9, 2015

When reality sets in

It's hard to believe that just 19 days ago, I was on top of the world.  I had just ran what most would agree was the race of my life at the Shamrock Half Marathon.  I truly felt was on the cusp of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  All I needed to do a few more long runs and then taper off for my goal race, the Glass City Marathon on April 26.  And literally instantly, everything fell to pieces... and now I'm out.

As we all know, hindsight is 20-20.  I can pinpoint several reasons as to why things may or may have have turned out the way that they have.
  • I ran the half marathon super-duper hard.  I am not one to back down during a race.  That's just not me.  But perhaps, just perhaps, pushing my body to a 1:40 half wasn't the best thing for my upcoming full.  That being said... I would not trade that race for anything.  Not even a BQ at Glass City.  That half marathon was a pivotal race for me, and it was more than just a race... it was a weekend that I'll never forget.  Now that I can't race my marathon, I'm grateful beyond words for this race; it makes all of the frigid miles that I ran this winter feel like they were worth something.
  • I only took one day off from running after my half marathon.  Had this been my "final race" of the season, my big goal race, I would have likely taken off a good 5-7 days following the race.  Instead, my mind was focused on my marathon, so I figured I could rest one day and get right back at it.  In retrospect, given how hard I pushed myself at the race, perhaps I should have taken a few more days off.  
  • I felt "off" all week during the week after the half.  I attributed this to post-race letdown and just general fatigue. My body felt fine, really... just tired.  When I ran, I made sure that the miles were kept at an easy pace.  However, my body just didn't seem to be bouncing back like how I thought it would.  Easy didn't feel as easy as it should.  My 15 miler the Sunday before my injury occurred was just so-so.  9+-minute miles felt harder than they typically do.
  • On Monday night (the day before the injury occurred), my right knee was bugging me.  Nothing awful; it just felt kind of funny when I did squats and lunges. I honestly didn't think anything of it.  When I started my run on Tuesday morning (the day the injury occurred), I didn't feel any knee pain at all.  In fact, I felt no pain at all during that run for the first 42 minutes.  It was only in the 43rd minute that I started to actually wonder what was wrong. It wasn't just fatigue anymore that I was feeling... my right leg felt like it literally wasn't going to be able to move for much longer.  And that's exactly what happened.  At mile 5.4 (just over 44 minutes into the run), my leg essentially gave out on me.  I am thankful I was with my running girls.  Dani stayed with me while Amy, Jess, Meggie and Allison ran the final 1.6 miles back to our starting spot and got a car. Because not only couldn't I run, I could barely even hobble a few steps.  
This injury has truly thrown me for a loop.  I was hurt before the Columbus Marathon (likely a muscle strain/tear), and was able to rest for 5 days and return to running.  I had my IT band issues last summer, and through rest, icing and rolling, was able to get that under control as well without too much interruption in my training.  I immediately went to my sports med doctor on Tuesday (the day I was injured). I saw a different doctor than I usually see; his diagnosis was tendonitis of my posterior tibialis muscle.  He recommended rest for a few days and said I'd be good to run 10 miles on Saturday (instead of my planned 20 miler).  I was happy with his words, but not very confident that he was correct.  I mean, I couldn't even walk!  My friend Chris dropped off some crutches for me to use, and they definitely helped keeping the weight off my leg.  

When I was still unable to really walk at all on Wednesday afternoon, I decided to seek a second opinion. I saw a doctor at Orthopedic One on Friday morning, and he said it was most likely a posterior tibialis muscle strain (not tendonitis as was previously said) and recommended that I start physical therapy.  I started PT at Orthopedic One the next day and was feeling good about things after my first appointment.  My therapist seemed to know what would get me back on the road quickly.  I also scheduled an appointment with a local chiropractor (Dr. Alexander) who works with several of my running friends.  I saw him for the first time this past Monday, and again my confidence was increased by the appointment.  Everyone who I was working with was very positive, and made me feel that I could be running again soon--even racing in the marathon on the 26th.

On Monday at PT I had dry needling done on my leg.  This is a procedure where blunt needles are inserted into trigger points (spots on the muscle that are sore or tender).  The actual needling doesn't hurt, but wow, was my leg sore for a good 24 hours afterward!  I also got to try out the AlterG treadmill.  This is an anti-gravity treadmill where you can designate what percentage of your weight you want to run with.  I walked and then ran for a total of 12 minutes at 75% of my body weight.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel great; my PT noticed I was limping, especially toward the end.

At my first chiropractor appointment, I found out that I have a moderate hip alignment issue, meaning one leg is actually longer than the other (10 mm).  It's not a coincidence that it's my right leg--the one that's *always* injured.  At my second appointment I found out that I also have spondylolisthesis, which is where the lowest vertebrae (L5) slips past the sacral bone.  Dr. Alexander has designed a treatment plan to get things in alignment, so I will continue to see him regularly.

It's now Thursday, and it's been 9 days since I went down during that fateful run.  I have had three PT sessions and two sessions with my chiropractor (who I see again tomorrow).  Today's PT session didn't go so well. I ran on the AlterG treadmill again, and had more pain this time, especially after I was done.  Even with only 50% of my body weight, things still felt "off".  I realized as I attempted to run 10-minute miles at 50% weight that Glass City was simply not going to happen.  I need both legs to be 100% to attempt this BQ, and if they aren't... then there's no point in me racing.  I've ran a marathon... this was going to be for a specific time, not just to finish.  I've realized that 100% is just not reasonable, not if I can hardly walk right now.  I'm back to limping badly again and feeling very down about everything.  I know what I need to do, and that is accept things and move on.  

My course of action: I am going to continue seeing my chiropractor and move forward with healing in that realm.  I feel like he is spot-on with what is going on with my body, especially given all of the issues I've had with my right leg over the past two years.  I am going to take several days off of going to PT and swimming and doing my strengthening and everything else,  and just let this calf rest. I'm also going back to my original doctor at MaxSports (Dr. Bright) on Monday to see if I can get a definitive answer about what's going on.  I am still confused as to exactly what is wrong with my calf.  If this is a strain, then it shouldn't be getting worse, which I feel at times it is.  I'm not sure if he can tell me anything more than anyone else has, but I trust him more than any other doctor, as he knows me and my history. 

Moving forward, I am looking at possibly running Grandma's Marathon in June, or the Erie Marathon in September.  Both are wonderful, fast, flat courses and would allow me to qualify for Boston for 2016.  Meanwhile, I will work on getting healthy and strong again so that I can realize my dreams.